As I continue to implement my One Word 2020 which is Pursue I’ve found myself focusing on the contrast in those whose actions reflect Christ versus those who simply say they follow Jesus. Pursing the heart of Christ has created a deeper desire to ensure my life reflects how Jesus lived his.
Early in the Pandemic we are currently living through an article by David Brooks caught my eye. He published a column on March 12, 2020 in the New York Times titled “Pandemics Kill Compassion Too, You may not like who you’re about to become”. Brooks warned “Some disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes, can bring people together, but if history is any judge, pandemics generally drive them apart. These are crises in which social distancing is a virtue. Dread overwhelms the normal bonds of human affection.”
Brooks continues “Fear drives people in these moments, but so does shame, caused by the brutal things that have to be done to slow the spread of the disease. In all pandemics people are forced to make the decisions that doctors in Italy are now forced to make — withholding care from some of those who are suffering and leaving them to their fate.”
While I can’t say I’ve ever felt this country was necessarily unified, there has been a new tension and division since 2015 that I have felt has been driven by the Church. For Brooks to warn that a pandemic would test people’s character certainly raised a red flag for me, but it was certainly true as full-grown adults have thrown full-on temper tantrums over wearing masks. (Something that is culturally acceptable and extremely common in many other countries even when there isn’t a pandemic.) As adults began running up to strangers and licking them, spitting in their faces, and literally screaming while holding guns over masks…(oh you read that sentence correctly and it’s all true you can Google it) we took a collective gasp on Memorial Day when a video surfaced of one of the vilest crime imaginable committed a police officer.
Once again Generation Z rose up to cry out for justice. The Crisis Generation is used to their leaders letting them down whether it’s the failure to respond to the Parkland Shootings (or dozens of shootings before and after), climate change, a rising national debt, or endless other mounting concerns, Generation Z knows they need to speak out for this country and call leadership out. This time the crowds at Black Lives Matter rallies looked different than previous peaceful protests:
As protests decrying the killing of George Floyd have raged across the country, Burney wanted to show solidarity. He expected just a handful of people to show up to a protest he helped put together on Sunday near Olean’s major intersection. But Burney was shocked to see at least 300 people turn up in the small city, which is located more than five hours northwest of New York City and has a population of nearly 14,000, 90% of whom are white. Hundreds more people showed up to another protest on Wednesday evening.
“This is a new thing,” Burney, 23, tells TIME. “It was the first time we all came together for something like this. It’s important because we live in a small city. We have a right that we get to exercise.”Protests Are Being Held in Small Cities and Towns Across the U.S.—And Young People Are Leading the Charge
While I’d love to say the Church is leading the charge, sadly, it seems that it is the ethics of Atheists and Religiously Unaffiliated are leading the call for morality.
Not much has changed in the church. George Barna reflected on a Barna Research study from 2003 saying,”A new research study from Barna Group suggests that a large share of the nation’s moral and spiritual challenges is directly attributable to the absence of a biblical worldview among Americans. Citing the findings from a just-completed national survey of 2033 adults that showed only 4% of adults have a biblical worldview as the basis of their decision-making, researcher George Barna described the outcome. “If Jesus Christ came to this planet as a model of how we ought to live, then our goal should be to act like Jesus. Sadly, few people consistently demonstrate the love, obedience and priorities of Jesus. The primary reason that people do not act like Jesus is because they do not think like Jesus. Behavior stems from what we think – our attitudes, beliefs, values and opinions. Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most Americans have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life. We’re often more concerned with survival amidst chaos than with experiencing truth and significance.”
As of May 2020, Barna Research has determined that 6% of American adults attending church hold a biblical worldview. This may sound like a positive uptick, but church attendance is plummeting.
“The diminished role of God in peoples’ lives highlights why just 6% of American adults possess a biblical worldview,” Barna added. “It’s one thing to lack theological clarity regarding biblical perspectives on immigration policy or the end times. It’s a much more serious condition when the general public outright rejects God as the source of truth, the Bible as the conveyance of truth, and the very importance of integrating a known, proven and stable source of truth into our daily decisionmaking and lifestyle.”
Barna Reports “Percentage points for all religious segments saw little to no shift over a decade, from 2003 to 2012—but by 2018, Christianity in the United States had witnessed a significant loss of followers, from 81 percent in 2003 to 72 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, the atheist / agnostic / none segment has seen the greatest increase of all groups analyzed, nearly doubling in size from 11 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2018.”
A Word of Caution
It’s tempting to start to point fingers and blame broken homes, “liberal thinking”, politics, even the removal of prayer from schools as the reason for the decline of the population who believe in absolute truth. But I think we need to pause to self reflect before we start pointing the finger elsewhere.
Since those who aren’t regular church attenders are some of the loudest voices calling for reform right now it’s vital to remember that those who haven’t had prayer in their school understand right from wrong very clearly while those who list themselves in surveys as regular church attenders and religiously affiliated have sat silently for decades.
Why is This Happening?
Munsil explained, “Like every generation before them, this next generation (Generation Z) is seeking guidance for how to live, how to understand truth and morality. They look to the older generation, to parents, mentors, their professors. But even these groups are rejecting absolute moral truth rooted in God.”
“Increasingly, they find themselves in a culture that, from top to bottom, rejects God’s truth and says to them, ‘you are free to determine your own morality. Look to yourselves, to science, to whatever you can find, for guidance on how to live your lives,” she explained.
This summary is confirmed by a LifeWay study from 2019 that reported only 1/3 of Americans who attend a Protestant church regularly (32%) say they read the Bible personally every day. Around a quarter (27%) say they read it a few times a week.
As of 2018 72% of Americans say they are Christians, and of that 72%, only 32% read the Bible for themselves every day.
How can you have a biblical worldview if you don’t know what the Bible says?
Self-Reflection Before Blame
1- How frequently are you reading the Bible for yourself?
2- How frequently is the church you choose to attend and your church leaders preaching and teaching directly from Scripture? Do they use full passages of Scripture or do they pull different verses from here or there? Do your church leaders find Scripture to support their opinions or do they let Scripture teach them as well as the congregation? (If you don’t know the difference there is a
3- How often are you applying what you learn at church or in your personal studies rather than cherry-picking the parts of the Bible you can box up into your personal version of Christianity that feels good and sit well with you?
These questions take challenging self-examination, however, a biblical world view requires those who say they are Christ-followers to continually re-examine our hearts as the Holy Spirit teaches us.
Paul identifies several Spiritual gifts in Romans 12 including preaching and teaching. If we didn’t need to constantly keep learning why would God ensure that the Body of Christ had clear teachers?
In 2003 George Barna said “Sadly, few people consistently demonstrate the love, obedience and priorities of Jesus. The primary reason that people do not act like Jesus is because they do not think like Jesus. Behavior stems from what we think – our attitudes, beliefs, values and opinions. Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most Americans have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life.”
Now, in 2019 we have statistics that confirm those who read and apply the Scripture to their lives do reflect Jesus. The 2019 Barna Research Study on the State of the Bible reports that those who are studying the Bible have consistent responses; They live out their faith and act like Jesus.
“Half of monthly Bible users (49%) agree their engagement with the Bible has made them feel more willing to engage with their faith. Among adults who use the Bible at least three to four times a year, three in five (61%) express they always experience a greater awareness of how much they need God. Half agree they consistently feel a sense of connection with God (51%), and a similar proportion (50%) desires to know God better. Another 46 percent of Bible users say they show more loving behavior toward others, and one in three (34%) is more generous with their time, energy or financial resources. Results also show a positive influence on how they treat people of a different race than themselves (62%), their support for refugees (55%), their decisions at work or school (53%) and their decisions about sex and sexuality (49%).”
Thousands are actively living out Matthew 22:34-40 in a humble, raw, and teachable way.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:34-40
How Do We Purse a Biblical Worldview?
We have to first understand that this isn’t going to be achieved perfectly. We’re still sinners. However, rather than taking the position that you have an accurate Biblical worldview, why not start with a posture of humility and take a little time for some self-reflection?
- Are you confident you’re communicating God’s truth correctly? Why?
- Are you positive you are compassionately loving your neighbor the way Matthew 22 outlines? Why? How?
- Are you confident that your convictions are rooted in biblical truth, not political bias? Why?
If you aren’t sure you can answer yes to these questions here’s a scenario to consider:
Have you ever sat in a church service or read something where a Scripture is used and you say to yourself “wait, that’s not right.” What do you do from there? What happens next?
- Do you go to your Bible and you open it up and you read the Scripture for yourself?
- Do you read the whole passage plus consider the historical context?
- Do you look to see if there are other verses that will lend more insights? (For example, in Matthew 22 verses above recordings of Jesus discussing the Greatest Command are in Luke and John. Reading these sections could help give additional insights.)
- Do you then pray for discernment and pause to ponder the verses?
- Do you ask God how these verses should be applied in your life and lived out?
- Do you except that the words written are true interpretations of the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic?
- Do you consider a few versions of Scripture since different words may offer different contexts? (NIV, NASB, ESV)
- OR do you simply go along with whatever you’re told even if it’s inconsistent with what you’re reading with your own eyes?
Let’s flip the scenario!
Do you ever sit in a service and walk out feeling awesome because it seems as if every verse used was exactly right? Like God was confirming your personal convictions? Do you ever double-check to make sure the verses used were done so in the correct context?
There are a few other Spiritual Gifts we should consider that Paul lists besides preaching and teaching. Romans 12:6-8
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11 & 26-31
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
There are many gifts such as discernment, knowledge, faith, interpretation, and prophecy that are unique, yet they work together for God’s glory. All these gifts as well as preaching and teaching are helpful for understanding God’s character and Scripture. The aid us as we pursue developing a biblical worldview. But we need to keep verse 26 in mind as well too. If one part suffers every part suffers.
When we don’t take the time to ensure the teaching and preaching we are sitting under (or that which we read and listen to online) is based on Scripture first and then interpretation rather than opinion first and then Scripture second, we weaken the whole Church body with our agreement. God gives us gifts for reasons. We must use them. But more than that, first, we must open our Bibles and read God’s word for ourselves and spend time learning about his character for ourselves.
Developing a Biblical Worldview is an intentional choice. Just like it’s an intentional choice to listen to the perspective of others who claim they are Christ followers with a discerning ear rather than simply trusting them because they seem to agree with your opinion. It starts with opening the Bible and reading Scripture for yourself.
We must stay in a posture of humility and keep our hearts teachable. We have to understand that the silence of the Church has allowed others to step in and step up. The Church who has stayed silent has lost its authority when it comes to speaking about morality in the eyes of the world. When you leave people alone to fight for the lives of their friends and family members you aren’t considered trustworthy or dependable.
The only way to earn back that trust is to reflect the love of Jesus because man’s love will never be enough. When we have a biblical worldview we will naturally reflect Jesus love because our actions will align with Scripture accurately.
Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV) Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”